Fannin County, Texas

See also the book "The History of Monkstown and the Surrounding Area, Fannin County, Texas, published in 2011 by Rebecca Todd Shirley.  It is a long book with many wonderful photos.  It has been uploaded to Flickr in six parts:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

From the newspaper column Here's History, by Tom Hymer, Chairman, Fannin County Historical Commission (date of column not known)

 In 1888, the Bonham News described Monkstown as a village “situated 25 miles north of Bonham on what is known as Blue Prairie, and has a population of about 150.

The town has one store of general merchandise, one drug store, one saloon, a blacksmith shop, a wood shop, a steam gin and mill,  a two story Masonic Lodge building, the lower part used for both a church and & school building. Equire Goss holds his court here.

The soil of the surrounding country produces corn, oats, wheat and cotton to perfection. Vegetables and fruits grow well. Land is worth from $8 to $10 per acre.”

The town was first called Blue Prairie but was renamed Monkstown to honor Thomas Monks, who donated the land for the town. Monks’ land was part of the Stephen Briggs survey. Briggs was a colored man.

By 1895, Monkstown had  grown to a town with 12 businesses, including R. J. Gray, ginner; J. S. Gray, grocer; J. L. Wilson, drugs and jewelry; J. M. Lawrence and T. P. McDaniel, blacksmiths; and Dr. R. E. Hancock, physician; a Masonic Lodge and a post office with W. C. Wilhite the postmaster, having succeeded Elish Bond.

Dick Moulten built the first gin in the community. It was hand fed by a broom. Cotton was carried upstairs in baskets and then fed in with a broom. Later, Bob Gray ran a gin where steers were used to turn a treadmill. Alex Brown brought the first suction gin to the community.

Other merchants included Phillip and Caudel, Aleck Brown and Son, W. C. Barnes, Davie Hinkle,
Stewart and Dooley, and Joe Brownfield, who was thought to have the largest store ever in Monkstown. He even sold furniture and caskets as well as readymade clothing.

The first school was held in a log house near the cemetery. The school building also served for a church. Teachers, in 1882, were Tom Bridges and Vince Harralson, who drowned in Bois d’Arc creek in 1885.

In 1919, a three-room school building was built. There were some 150 pupils enrolled. In 1955, the school was transfered to Honey Grove. Miss Minnie Winningham was the last teacher in Monkstown.

Union Church services were held on the lower floor of the Masonic Lodge building for many years. In 1910, the Baptists built a church building. The Methodist Church was organized in 1925. They continued to hold services on the lower floor of the building until 1941 when the Texas Grand Lodge, A.F. k A.M. deeded the property to the Methodist Church.

The two story building was torn down and a one room building erected in 1941. The bell the Masons used is still useable and is on a pull on the church ground. Brush arbor camp meetings were popular. Preachers included Crutchfield and Hunt, Methodist, and M. E. Keene, Baptist.

The Monkstown Cemetery has been abandoned for several years. The oldest headstone is dated 1870. Thomas Bridges and J. Haralson, a Confederate veteran, were buried there in 1882. Other names on headstones are; Adams. Bernathy, Brownfield, Favor, Hart, King, Martin, McDaniel, Pate, Tynes, Wells, Wills, Wilhite and Steelman.

Two outstanding features of the community were the crossings north on Red River: a ferry crossing where Blue River, of Oklahoma. empties into the Red; and a foot crossing due north of Monkstown.

The census of 1880 included these families of Monkstown: William and Hanie Monks; Thomas J. and Elize Monks; Alfred and Mary Hart; M. H. and Jennie Favor; J. H. and Harriett Favor; Thomas and Susan Wells; G. Hawley and wife, and James S. Searcy, a horse trader.

Leonard Stroud, whose name is listed in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame at Oklahoma City, was bom in Monkstown in 1893.

On December 12, 1878, a Masonic Lodge, Blue Prairie. No. 488, was chartered in Monkstown. The first officers of the lodge were: James Monk, Worshipful Master; J. Clark, Senior Warden; and A. G. Hart, Junior Warden.

Charter members were M. M. Black, F. M. Bridges, J. Clark, J. M. Dodds, A. S. Dodds, J. Epps, W. W. Grainer, Joe Shua, J. Graham, J. P. Hawkins, A. G. Hart, J. L. Hopper, J. C. Hawkins, V. L. Harralson, James Harwich, J. M. Hopper, D. D. McDaniel, James Monk, G. W. Paschal, G. W. Peeks, Ansel Peacock, S. F. Ray and P. D. Speeler.

Other members of the lodge were H. L. P. Barnes, W. C. Barnes, J. A. Bennett, W. C. Cravens, D. R. Faulk, G. W. Favor, J. H. Gilbert, T. J. Gooch, J. H. Gilbert, W. W. Graham, R. J. Gray, W. S. Hill, T. A. Jones, G. W. Kershner, J. T. Kershner, J. B. Lemmons.

G. W. Morrison, P. M. Miller, P. Martin, D. D. McDaniel, W. A. Newberry, W. M. Preston, J. M. Richardson, J. S. Searcy, J. C. Sellers, H. R. Smith, A. L. Terry, J. A. Weldon, W. N. Wright.

In the early 1890s a tornado destroyed the two-story Masonic Hall which was occupied on the ground floor by a rooming house. Mrs. Florence Goss McKnight, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J. F. Goss, recalled years later of helping a neighbor, Tolly McDaniel, search for the black and white balls used by the Masons for voting.

Blue Prairie Lodge No. 488 demised in 1924. According to the Grand Lodge of Texas recordings the following Masons were members at that time: J. A. Allen, A. J. Allen, W.A. Andes, H. W. Barton, W. D. Bowden, R. L. Boyd, H. W. Brians, S. S. Denny, W. L. Dodds, E. E. Felts, C. N. Gray, H. H. Gray, C. E. Hall, W. G. Hammond, H. D. Hart, J. O. Hawkins, H. M. Hawkins, J. W. Hopkins, J. H. Hurst.

E. H. Jones, L. V. Little, L.  M. Manning, P. F. Manuel, A. L. Merrell, H. M. Merrell, G. W. Morgan, T. S. Moore, C. D. Moore, S. L. Moore, W. F. Moore, H. L. Morrison, W. H. Prayter, W. B. Richardson, D. T. Richardson, L. G. Rossin, Hammie Slagle, M. R. Slagle, O. B. Slagle, S. R. Slagle, W. G. Slagle, W. W. Slagle, D. B. Stone, L. A. Wells and W. T. J. Williams.

In 1879, Dr. J. F. Goss and wife, Frances Ray, and their five daughters and four sons moved into the community. Goss practiced medicine for many years. He also served as justice of the peace. His son, Joe Ray, owned the largest plantation in the county during the 1920s and 1930s. In the late 1930s he had the largest ’ cotton allotment in the state, over 5000 acres.

Many stories have been told about his plantation operation. During the depression years of the 1930s, Bonham State Bank held a mortgage on his mules. Because money was so scarce the bank called in the mortgage. That day hundreds of Goss mules were driven to Bonham and a neighbor along the road said it was the first mule drive she had ever seen.

The drive consumed a full day. The bank put the mules in a Bonham park to feed, but in a few days the bank, realizing the expense of feeding them, requested Goss to come and get them. He knew he could buy more mules cheaper in order to make next year’s crop.

William Morgan, a neighbor to Goss, also operated a large plantation. Morgan once owned all the land where Monkstown is today. His plantation covered 12,000 acres in all. For more than fifty years the Morgans and Gosses were neighbors.

Riverby was the site for a school, established in 1913, for the children of the Goss and Morgan plantations.  At one time the school had two teachers and an enrollment of 200 students.  One of the best remembered teachers was Miss Merle Spies, daughter of Judge and Mrs. J. E. Spies.  Mrs. Beachel Fair, of Monkstown, was the last teacher.  The school closed in 1960.

(This article was prepared by Tom Hymer of the Fannin County Historical Commission from materials from a "A History of Fannin County" by Mrs. Floy Crandall Hodge and from "Fannin County Folks and Facts," a history of Fannin County published by the Bonham Public Library.)